Wreckage found may be Air Asia jet tail

Muslim clerics pray before boarding an Indonesian military helicopter to pray over the area believed to be the crash site of AirAsia flight QZ8501, at an airbase in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan January 6, 2015. Search teams trying to find the black box flight recorders from a crashed AirAsia jet and recover bodies of victims scrambled on Tuesday to take advantage of a brief respite in the bad weather that has frustrated the operation for the last nine days. (REUTERS)

An Indonesian naval patrol vessel has found what could be the tail of the crashed Air Asia passenger jet, the section where the crucial black box voice and flight data recorders are located.

News of the possible breakthrough came as the transport ministry in Jakarta said some officials on duty at the time of the accident will be moved to other roles, Reuters reports.

It also announced it was tightening rules on pre-flight procedures.

Ships and aircraft scouring the northern Java Sea for debris and bodies from the Airbus A320-200 have widened their search to allow for currents eight days after Flight QZ8501 plunged into the water en route from Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board.

"We found what has a high probability of being the tail of the plane," Yayan Sofyan‎, captain of the patrol vessel, said.

He was speaking after his ship returned to the port in Surabaya on Monday, and it was not immediately clear if he was referring to one of the five large objects pinpointed by search vessels over the weekend.
Indonesia's meteorological agency has said seasonal tropical storms probably contributed to the crash and the weather has persistently hampered efforts to recover bodies and find the cockpit voice and flight data recorders that should explain why the plane crashed into the sea.

The recorders are housed in the tail section of the Airbus, making retrieval of that part of the aircraft crucial.

"I am not saying it's the tail yet," the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo, told a news conference in Jakarta.

"That is suspected. Now we are trying to confirm it."

The main focus of the search is about 90 nautical miles off the coast of Borneo island, where five large objects believed to be parts of the plane - the largest about 18 metres long - have been located in shallow waters by ships using sonar.

While experts say the shallow sea should make the recovery fairly straightforward in good weather, strong winds and big waves have frustrated the multinational force of ships and divers that has converged at the site.

"The seas haven't been very friendly, but the black boxes have a 30-day life and they will be able to find them," said Peter Marosszeky, a senior aviation research fellow at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

"It's the weather that is causing the delay."

Thirty-seven bodies of the mostly Indonesian passengers and crew have been recovered, including some still strapped in their seats.

Many more may be trapped in the body of the aircraft.

 

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